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Fusion programme - 1996 evaluation

The European Commission, DG XII, has recently published the 1996 evaluation report of the Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion research programme, part of the Euratom Framework Programme. This evaluation, conducted by independent external consultants, reviews the activities carried...
The European Commission, DG XII, has recently published the 1996 evaluation report of the Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion research programme, part of the Euratom Framework Programme. This evaluation, conducted by independent external consultants, reviews the activities carried out within the Fusion programme in the past five years.

Fusion means creating energy from water, in effect using the same energy source as the sun and the stars. The raw materials needed, lithium and deuterium, are abundantly available and the environmental costs of this type of energy are much less than existing forms. The report states that in view of these factors, Europe must keep the option of using fusion energy open.

The costs involved in developing the process into an exploitable energy source are such that no one state could afford it alone. Europe is at the forefront of research into fusion, and scientists at the Joint European Torus (JET), in England, produced a short burst of power using fusion in the laboratory, for the first time ever, in 1991. Since then, the EU has joined the USA, Japan and Russia in planning for the Next Step International Thermonuclear Reactor (ITER). ITER, currently in the design phase, aims to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion. It will be the first fusion device to produce thermal power at a comparable level to a commercial power station.

Exploratory talks on the construction of ITER are currently underway among the partners. The Fusion evaluation calls for Europe to host ITER, in order that Europe may continue to be at the forefront in developing fusion energy. According to the report, the construction of ITER should be the first priority of the Fusion programme under the Fifth Framework Programme. The Italian government has expressed interest in hosting ITER, and this would currently seem to be the most likely location if it is built in Europe.

Source: European Commission, DG XII
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